Brokers Turn to Technology to Maximize Truckload Capacity

Mark Cubine | McLeod Software

Brokers are tapping into data and technology to harvest more truckload capacity during the work day, creating a win-win solution for all parties within the supply chain and making brokers more competitive.

one photo/Shutterstock.com“We have to document capacity, know it is there and proactively reach out to carriers before they reach out to our competition,” said Cody Thacker, Director of Procurement for Reed Transport Services.

Tampa, FL-based Reed Transport Services has turned to their TMS, which automatically pulls data from all types of carrier emails to identify and categorize available truckload capacity in real-time creating visible, available truckload capacity. “There is a wealth of information sitting in each carrier executive’s inbox just waiting to be mined,” said Robert Brothers, Director of Product Development for McLeod Software.

Brothers added that the information alone isn’t actionable. “Because they receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a day, it can be hard to recall any particular email,” he said, adding that carrier emails can come in as free-form text, a generated HTML table, an image of available capacity, or an attached Word, Excel or PDF document.

When Brian Kelsey, Vice President of Operations for ZMac Transportation Solutions, a flatbed brokerage company based in Racine, WI, started using the TMS’s capacity feature, he created a centralized email box for carrier emails and realized the company was receiving 100 a day.

The challenge is to take that unstructured data and turn it into structured data. Without automation, combing through emails and keying in information about capacity can be a tedious and time-consuming process. “You have to see the email, pull it up, cross reference the system and respond to the carrier,” Thacker said.

The TMS’s capacity feature is able to read unstructured information and turn it into data brokers can use to take action. It seems simple, but it can turn out to be a complex problem.

Even with automation, a small percentage of emails – about three percent – aren’t able to be automatically processed. The TMS provider sends those that aren’t to be reviewed quickly by its service team.

Once the data is centralized, brokers can control how they want the system to make matches. One option is to utilize manual matches, with the broker receiving an alert and creating a message that is then sent to a carrier. The TMS can also create semi-automated matches in which the system automates the message and alerts the broker, who can send it. Brokers can choose to make the system fully automated, so it makes matches and sends out messages, alerting both the broker and the carrier to availability.

For brokers, the ability to see and use data quickly means an increased opportunity to grow revenue based on truck availability. “You might be able to find capacity for the loads you have, but you might also start seeking out customers to fill the capacity you see,” Brothers explained. “That is totally different.”

Reed Transport Services auto-forwards emails to a portal that scrubs the truck list with its available freight and responds back, typically within three minutes, to carriers and the broker with matches that might be available right now, Thacker said.

Thacker added that minimizing the number of clicks it takes to book a load enables the company to become more efficient and take on higher volumes without necessarily adding headcounts. At Reed Transport Services, the TMS’s matching features run in the background and scrub across many different platforms. “Now we’re booking 7 to 10 percent of our freight through that mechanism. That drives efficiency and brings down the cost of execution,” he said.

What’s more, Reed Transport Services’ numbers are increasing. “When we first started measuring our total capacity numbers within this system back in the middle of May, per week on the truck list we were obtaining maybe 500 to 600 trucks,” Thacker said. The company now grabs more than 5,500 trucks a week on the truck list.

Kelsey said that before using the TMS’s capacity feature ZMac’s available tractor list was much smaller, so it was harder to find any matching trucks for loads. Now, thanks to the emails with the extracted tractors emails, matching has been much more successful.

Increased freight volumes and decreased utilization caused by the electronic logging mandate have affected the market, making capacity tighter. “This has created inconsistent prices to our customers, which affects our margin dollars. This also brings some unwanted tension between us and our customers,” Kelsey said, adding that one way to mitigate this is to find more capacity.

Brokers can use the data within the capacity feature to search for new carrier freight based on tractor availability, allowing them to cover loads already in the system and expand revenue opportunities through new load solicitation.

Reed Transport Services uses the system to look for freight and makes notes of routes that are in demand. “We may not have that load now, but we can document it today. If and when that business does enter the building, it brings up that opportunity,” he said.

Having factual data, particularly in real time, has taken on greater importance in the supply chain. “Transportation used to be a gut-feel thing. Today we’re trying to harness every bit of our data going on behind the scenes,” Thacker said.

Mark Cubine is Vice President, Marketing & Enterprise Systems for McLeod Software. He can be reached at Mark.Cubine@McLeodSoftware.com.